The Leaders of the Middle East

by Stephanie Berenbaum – February 2, 2011

A Cheat Sheet on a Region in Turmoil

With all the tumult in the Middle East in the past few weeks, you may find yourself hearing about countries and leaders you know very little – or nothing – about.  With one revolution after another, there is plenty to educate ourselves about.  Aside from the serious social issues at stake, these international events affect our money- everything from oil prices, to where tourism dollars are spent, to the ups and down of financial markets worldwide.  Simply put- turning a blind eye is not an option…

So – in order to more easily understand the growing unrest in Egypt and other neighboring countries, here is a brief Fab & Fru breakdown of Middle East leaders and the countries that have made the news over the past few weeks.  As revolts continue to occur in the region, this thumbnail sketch of the relevant players should at least help you to familiarize yourself with the basics so you can better navigate your way through the alarming headlines.


Current president (as of this writing) is Hosni Mubarak. Egypt is described as a Semi-Presidential Republic, but it has been under the rule of Emergency Law since 1967 (with a brief hiatus in 1980).  Mubarak is the leader of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and is currently serving his 5th term in office.  He took over as President after the assassination of Anwar el-Sadat in 1981.

The current protests in Egypt are calling for his resignation. And although he has said he will not stand for re-election in September, the protesters are calling  for his immediate exit.


King Abdullah II. Jordan’s government is a constitutional monarchy.  Jordan has made headlines in the news, because as of a couple days ago, King Abdullah fired his entire cabinet. This was seen as a pre-emptive reaction to events taking place in Egypt and Tunisia.

With a reputation as a modern, Western educated leader, his actions have been interpreted as a preemptive move to avoid a potential revolt by the people against the ruling government.  He has asked former Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit to form a new, more democratic government.

Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah is the Saudi ruler. The government is an Islamic Absolute Monarchy – meaning the King must be guided by the principles of Sharia (Islamic Law) and The Qur’an.  The King is chosen from sons and grandsons of the first King- Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of oil.


President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yemen has a Presidential Democracy.  President Saleh announced today that he will not finish out his term (which is up in 2013), and that he will not pass power down to his son, as many were fearing.  This announcement comes a day before planned protests in the capital city of Sana’a.  In the past, Saleh has said he would step down, but he has gone back on his word.  Therefore, there is some skepticism about his declaration.

Yemen is the poorest Arab country, and seen as fertile ground for Al-Queda and other terrorist organizations.

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4 Responses to “The Leaders of the Middle East”

  1. Carmina says:

    You are so right!!! Much going on over there and we ARE directly affected…in many was, not just financially. Everyone must stay informed and be aware of the pressure being put on Israel and soon the USA.

  2. Louie says:

    Very dangerous times at a critical place in the World Community. The struggle between Freedom, capitalism and Islamic fundamentalism is being played out in a quick and turbulent manner. The problem comes as this effects most of the world and not just the region.
    It’s also interesting how the media and particularly the Internet has played a major role in descent amongst the younger populations in this area of the world. Hopefully it will be a positive guiding force, sharing a world view.
    This is one reason, for sure, that America should and must be energy independent. Europe and the far east are in a major bind if all hell breaks out in the Middle East. Quite frankly, if we utilized our own resources here, we could wind up being an energy selling nation, allowing these nations not to effect us. Maybe we could put some folks here back to work, just as a small aside too. To much to hope for.

  3. Sue says:

    Great, concise article. Many thanks.

  4. Elli Davis says:

    What I see as a common point of all these headlines is the struggle for some kind of economic prosperity rather than democracy as such. And this brings me to the conclusion that the people of Egypt or Tunisia may feel deceived by the Western world if this prosperity is finally not achieved.

Any Thoughts?